Alaska's Commission on Judicial Conduct was created by amendment to the state constitution in 1968. The Commission is composed of three state court judges, three attorneys who have practiced law in the state for at least ten years, and three members of the public. This group of nine individuals from differing backgrounds and geographical areas addresses problems of judicial conduct and disability. Complaints alleging judicial misconduct can be filed by any person.

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Submit any comments to the Commission at administrator@acjc.state.ak.us


Recent Commission Actions


The Commission Members

Judge Members

Judge Keith Levy

Alaska District Court
PO Box 114100

Juneau, Alaska 99811-4100

(Term expires February 1, 2019)

(Chairperson)

Judge Erin B. Marston

Alaska Superior Court

825 W. 4th Avenue

Anchorage, Alaska 99501-2004

(Term expires February 1, 2019)

Judge Jane F. Kauvar

Alaska Superior Court

101 Lacey Street

Fairbanks, Alaska 99701-4761

(Term expires February 1, 2020)

 

Attorney Members

Marc W. June

807 G St., Suite 150

Anchorage, Alaska 99501-3447

(Term expires March 1, 2017)

Amy Gurton-Mead

155 S. Seward St.
Juneau, AK 99801-1332
(Term expires March 1, 2020)

Karla Taylor-Welch

100 Cushman Street, Suite 502
Fairbanks, Alaska 99701-4659
(Term expires March 1, 2020)

 

Public Members

George Boatright

510 L Street, Suite 585

Anchorage, Alaska 99501-1959

(Term expires March 1, 2019)

Robert Sheldon

510 L Street, Suite 585

Anchorage, Alaska 99501-1959

(Term expires March 1, 2020)

Chris Brown

510 L Street, Suite 585

Anchorage, Alaska 99501-1959

(Term expires March 1, 2017)


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The Commission's Role and Function

Judicial Officers Who Come Under the Commission's Authority

Alaska's Commission on Judicial Conduct oversees the conduct of justices of the Alaska Supreme Court, judges of the state court of appeals, state superior court judges, and state district court judges. The Commission cannot handle complaints against magistrates, masters, attorneys or federal judicial officers.

Complaints against state magistrates and masters are handled by the presiding superior court judge for their respective judicial district:

First Judicial District

Honorable Trevor Stephens

Alaska Superior Court

415 Main Street, Room 400

Ketchikan, Alaska 99901-6399

Second Judicial District

Honorable Paul A. Roetman

Alaska Superior Court

Box 317

Kotzebue, Alaska 99752-0317

Third Judicial District

Honorable William Morse

Alaska Superior Court

825 West 4th Avenue

Anchorage, Alaska 99501-2004

Fourth Judicial District

Honorable Michael A. MacDonald

Alaska Superior Court

101 Lacey Street

Fairbanks, Alaska 99701-4761

 

 

Complaints against attorneys can be directed to:


Maria Bahr, Bar Counsel

Alaska Bar Association

Box 100279

Anchorage, Alaska 99510

Complaints against federal judges in Alaska are handled by:


Assistant Circuit Executive

P.O. Box 193939

San Francisco, California 94119-3939

Telephone (415) 556-6100


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Types of Complaints the Commission Can Address

1. Misconduct

Perhaps the broadest category of conduct complaints against judges falls under the term "misconduct." Judicial misconduct has very specific meaning under the Code of Judicial Conduct. The Code of Judicial Conduct generally governs the activities of judges both on and off the bench. It is a comprehensive statement of appropriate judicial behavior and has been adopted by the Alaska Supreme Court as part of the Rules of Court. Judicial misconduct can be divided into several categories.

(a) Improper Courtroom Behavior

Often complaints against judges allege improper behavior in the courtroom during a trial. Allegations of improper courtroom behavior may include: improper consideration and treatment of attorneys, witnesses, and others in the hearing; improper physical conduct; or persistent failure to dispose of business promptly and responsibly.

Examples of improper courtroom behavior include: racist or sexist comments by a judge, sleeping or drunkenness on the bench. Judges can also be disciplined for administrative failures such as taking an excessive amount of time to make a decision.

(b) Improper or Illegal Influence

Judges must be independent from all outside influences that may affect their abilities to be fair and impartial. Consequently, judges are restricted as to the types of activities in which they can participate. At a minimum, judges cannot allow family, social or political relationships to influence any judicial decision. Judges also should not hear a matter in which the judge has a personal interest in the outcome. Extreme examples of improper influence would include the giving or receiving of gifts, bribes, loans or favors. To help assure judicial independence, judges are required to file financial disclosure statements with the court and other financial statements with the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

(c) Impropriety Off the Bench

Judges are required to live an exemplary life off the bench, as well. Consequently, the Commission has the authority and responsibility to look at judges' activities outside of the courtroom. Complaints dealing with off the bench conduct might allege: misappropriation or misuse of public employees, property or funds; improper speech or associations; interference with a pending or impending lawsuit; lewd or corrupt personal life; or use of the judicial position to extort or embezzle funds. Clearly, off the bench conduct includes a wide range of behavior from merely inappropriate actions to criminal violations.

(d) Other Improper Activities

Judges are also subject to restrictions in other aspects of their positions. These include prohibitions against: conducting proceedings or discussions involving one party to a legal dispute; interfering with the attorney-client relationship; bias; improper campaign activities; abusing the prestige of the judicial office; obstructing justice; and criminal behavior.

2. Physical or Mental Disability

Apart from allegations of misconduct in office, the Commission also has the authority and responsibility to address allegations of judges' physical and mental disabilities. Disabilities may include: alcohol or drug abuse; senility; serious physical illness; or mental illness.

The Commission can require medical examinations as part of its investigation and also can recommend counseling when appropriate.

3. Complaints the Commission Cannot Address

The most common complaints that the Commission has no authority to address are questions of law. Frequently, complaints allege dissatisfaction with decisions that judges make in their judicial capacity. For example, individuals often complain of wrong child custody awards or sentences that judges impose in criminal cases. The Commission cannot enter into cases or reverse judicial decisions. That role belongs to the appellate courts.


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How the Commission Operates

Filing a Complaint

While the Commission can initiate its own investigation, any person can also file a complaint against a state judge with the Commission. A form is not necessary, but the complaint has to be in writing with a signature and should include enough information to enable the Commission staff to begin an investigation. Necessary information includes: the judge's name, the conduct complained of, a case number if it involves a court case, and the names of others present or aware of the facts. Complaints should be mailed or faxed to:

Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct, 510 L Street, Suite 585, Anchorage, Alaska 99501

Commission staff will be happy to assist anyone in writing their complaints.

Complaint Investigation

Soon after a complaint is filed, the Commission will review the accusation. Commission staff will often interview the person who filed the complaint to determine the facts giving rise to the complaint. After the initial inquiry, the Commission may conduct a full investigation. All complaints within the Commission's legal authority are investigated further. If the charge is found to be without merit, an accusation against a judge may be dismissed by the Commission during the investigation. If a preliminary investigation supports the complaint, a formal investigation begins. It is at this stage that the judge involved is informed of the complaint. A formal investigation includes an interview with the judge.

Complaints filed with the Commission and all Commission inquiries and investigations are confidential. If the Commission finds that probable cause exists that a judge has committed misconduct, a formal statement of charges is issued. The statement of charges is public information. Some time after the formal charges issue, the Commission will hold an open public formal hearing on the matter. At that hearing, Special Counsel (hired by the Commission) presents the case against the judge. The judge is often represented by an attorney who presents that judge's defenses. The full Commission usually sits as decision makers in the matter and renders a decision that may include recommendations to the Alaska Supreme Court for sanctions against the judge. The results of a Commission proceeding are public when Commission recommendations are made to the supreme court.

The Commission's decision may be to: exonerate the judge of the charge or charges; recommend counseling; or recommend that the supreme court take formal action. The Alaska Supreme Court may impose one of the following sanctions against the judge: suspension, removal, retirement, public or private censure, reprimand,* or admonishment. (*The Commission on Judicial Conduct originally had statutory authority to issue reprimands without actions by the Alaska Supreme Court. That power was held to be unconstitutional by Inquiry Concerning a Judge, 762 P.2d 1292 (1988).)

Rules of Procedure

The Commission's operations are governed by its own Rules of Procedure. While the statutes relating to the Commission broadly outline the Commission's responsibilities, the Rules of Procedure define how the Commission operates. In 1991, the Commission revised its rules clarifying many rules and increasing their scope. Some rules continued to be refined and modified in the past few years.

The rules are more comprehensive and specific in such areas as: discovery, evidence, motions, role of the chair, executive director's role and authority, contempt powers, standards for reopening complaints, and deliberative process. In addition, rules changes were needed to conform to new legislation.

Rules revisions were circulated for public comment prior to their adoption. The Commission's efforts are directed towards improving its public responsiveness, creating the fairest procedures, and fulfilling its directive under the state constitution.

Staffing

The Commission staff currently consists of an executive director, and an administrative assistant.


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Commission Finances and Budget

The Commission's finances are planned according to the state fiscal year (July 1 - June 30). Each year the Commission on Judicial Conduct submits its budget request to the legislature. The Commission's resources are appropriated from general state operating funds.

Legislation

At the Commission's request, the House Judiciary Committee introduced a bill in 1989 that would open the Commission's formal hearings to the public. House Bill 268, passed in May 1990, also establishes a constant time period of six years for complaints against judges to be filed with the Commission. (The former law required a period of not more than six years before the start of the judge's current term; creating different time limits for different judges.) The bill also explicitly includes part-time or temporary judges within the Commission's authority. As a result of this bill's passage, all Commission formal hearings and recommendations to the Alaska Supreme Court are open to the public. The public will become aware of the evidence presented and the action taken by the Commission in future hearings. The public will also be aware of charges that are not supported by evidence and exoneration of these charges.


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Commission Complaint Form (fax or mail only)

Download Complaint Form Here pdf icon

***Note: This complaint form is not necessary, however any complaint needs to be in writing with a signature. Complaints can be mailed or faxed to: Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct, 510 L Street, Suite 585, Anchorage, Alaska 99501; (907) 272-1033.

NO ELECTRONICALLY FILED COMPLAINT CAN BE ACCEPTED AT THIS TIME.


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